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THE BEET: news & notes from the ranch

October 2016

FROM THE FARM | ARTISAN OF THE MONTH | AT THE TABLE

Flashback to May when we planted our spuds in Tomales. You may recall, we planted 57 rows, each 750 feet long with a seed potato planted approximately every 12 inches, which we crossed our fingers would produce 6 potatoes per plant.

Potatoes in Tomales are essentially dry farmed, because there is enough Spring soil moisture to germinate the potato and grow the crop without irrigation.

Flash forward to last month: Let’s see how the tubers did!

How do we know when it’s time to harvest? When the vines that grow above the potatoes start to die. The first step is to mow these vines, so they don’t clog the digger.

Next, Cole Petersen, our neighbor in Tomales, setup his family’s 1950s John Deere potato digger. Historically, this was a digger that was pulled by a team of horses, but it has since been adapted for tractor use--it is still manually operated though. There is a forward blade between two heavy iron wheels with a driver’s seat mounted on top of the axle.

The driver would sit on the seat and adjust the angle of the blade as the digger moved through the rows. Now that we don’t have a driver riding the digger, Cole had to adjust the blade before the digging really started. It is very important that the angle of the blade is set properly, so that it does not slice the potatoes during the harvest process. The blade must be deep enough to go under the potatoes, but not so deep that it gets stuck in any wet soil.

The digger has a slotted elevator made of steel bars that are linked together. The gaps between the bars enable soil and other debris to be separated from the potatoes and fall back onto the field.

The potatoes move up the elevator, with minimal agitation to avoid bruising, and fall into a narrow line behind the tractor.

Our awesome crew follows the tractor gathering all of the potatoes into buckets for bagging.

Buckets are emptied into mesh bags (when full, each one weighs 60lbs)
for transport back to Rutherford where...



… the 16,000 pounds of Yukon Golds and Red La Sodas are separated by varietal by hand!
(ignore the “onion” labels)



ARTISAN OF THE MONTH

Name:
Mean Gene Dancing Machine (Gene Hall)

What is your role at Long Meadow Ranch (LMR)?
Sous chef

How long have you been with LMR?
Six years as of October 10, 2016

What has been your favorite project at LMR?
Creating dishes with the produce coming in from the farm.

What do you wish other people knew about LMR?
What our cooks take on everyday. Our restaurant has grown so much over the last 6 years, and the cooks have been able to keep up and continue to make great food.

What kind of trends are you seeing in the food industry?
Farm to table is everywhere.

Tell us how you got into cooking. Was it a natural fit from the start or did you take various avenues before landing in the field?
From the age of 18 to 21 I worked as an electrician. Once work started slowing down, I started thinking of what else I’d like to pursue. Cooking has always been something I loved doing. My grandfather was a chef from Hawaii and taught me a little growing up. So, I went to school in Sacramento and found a job working at a Hawaiian restaurant. I started washing dishes and learning from the line cooks in my down time. On my days off, I would walk into the back doors of kitchens asking to hang out for the day. My cousin was working at Farmstead and told me there was a job opening, so I applied and got the job and have been here ever since.

What inspires you?
The change of seasons.

Best vacation you have ever taken?
Three months in Baja California.

Red or white wine?
Both

Bike or motorcycle?
Motorcycle

Sushi or pizza?
Cold pizza

iphone or Android?
iPhone

Mountains or ocean?
Ocean


AT THE TABLE

HASSELBACK POTATOES

Recipe courtesy: Stephen Barber
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
4 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 T butter, melted
2 T olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Optional extras: minced fresh herbs, spices, grated cheese, bread crumbs, panko crumbs

Special equipment:
Chef's knife
Large serving spoon (optional)
Baking dish, oven-safe skillet, or baking sheet
1 Bottle of Farmstead Cabernet Sauvignon for drinking (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F with the rack in the lower-middle position.

Scrub the potatoes clean and pat them dry. Alternatively, you can peel off the skins.

Cut 1/4” to 1/8” slices into each potato, stopping about 1/2” from the bottom, so the slices stay connected at the bottom of the potato. Tip: you can place chop sticks on either side of the potato to keep from cutting through each one.

Combine the melted butter and olive oil in a small bowl. Arrange the potatoes in a baking dish and brush all over with half the mixture, including the bottoms. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Bake the potatoes for 30 minutes. At this point, the layers will start separating. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the potatoes again—you can nudge the layers apart if they're still sticking together. Make sure some of the fat drips down into the space between the slices.

Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are crispy on the edges and easily pierced in the middles with a paring knife. If you're adding any extras (herbs, cheese, etc), stuff between the slices and sprinkle over the top 5 to 10 minutes before the end of cooking. Total baking time is 60 to 70 minutes for average potatoes; if your potatoes are on the small side or are larger, adjust cooking time accordingly.

Serve immediately! These potatoes are best straight from the oven, while the edges are at their crispiest.

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